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Infect Immun. 2000 Mar;68(3):1687-91.

Roles of the surface layer proteins of Campylobacter fetus subsp. fetus in ovine abortion.

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  • 1Department of Farm Animal, Royal Veterinary College, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom.


The role of the surface (S)-layer proteins of Campylobacter fetus subsp. fetus has been investigated using an ovine model of abortion. Wild-type strain 23D induced abortion in up to 90% of pregnant ewes challenged subcutaneously. Isolates recovered from both dams and fetuses expressed S-layer proteins with variable molecular masses. The spontaneous S-layer-negative variant, strain 23B, neither colonized nor caused abortions in pregnant ewes. A series of isogenic sapA and recA mutants, derived from 23D, also were investigated in this model. A mutant (501 [sapA recA(+)]) caused abortion in one of five challenged animals and was recovered from the placenta of a second animal. Another mutant (502 [sapA recA]) with no S-layer protein expression caused no colonization or abortions in challenged animals but caused abortion when administered intraplacentally. Mutants 600(2) and 600(4), both recA, had fixed expression of 97- and 127-kDa S-layer proteins, respectively. Two of the six animals challenged with mutant 600(4) were colonized, but there were no abortions. As expected, all five strains recovered expressed a 127-kDa S-layer protein. In contrast, mutant 600(2) was recovered from the placentas of all five challenged animals and caused abortion in two. Unexpectedly, one of the 16 isolates expressed a 127-kDa rather than a 97-kDa S-layer protein. Thus, these studies indicate that S-layer proteins appear essential for colonization and/or translocation to the placenta but are not required to mediate fetal injury and that S-layer variation may occur in a recA strain.

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